Sistahs on Wheels received one of the New Orleans Complete Streets Mini Grants earlier this year, which aims to offer the financial and operational support to empower local groups to promote Complete Streets and activate new infrastructure. Zina Harris, the main lead for the group, proposed to organize a Community Bike Ride with other members of her congregation at the Sixth Baptist Church.
I arrived just in time for the sermon, where Rob Henig -Bell – Campaign Coordinator for Bike Easy – gave a short presentation about the New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition work, and the benefit of having the community involved. He briefly described the current milestones, challenges, and goals for the future. The response was very positive! One of the women attending the ride told me how happy she was with the improvements in Algiers, and many others also took yard signs to show their support for the New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition at home.
After the sermon, church members got ready for our ride! Zina Harris, who was leading this effort – had refreshments and treats ready for all, and after a brief Bike Safety presentation, we made sure everyone was ready for a safe ride. I was happy to see that full families, and individuals with a range of riding experience were in the group.
We began exploring a portion of the Lower Garden District, and made our way to Central City. We made sure to ride on Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, so folks could see the current bike lanes there and feel how much safer and less stressful it will be once the City builds protected bikeways on MLK. A big goal for the ride, is to show folks existing infrastructure, and help envision the work that will be done in that area in the next coming months.
I believe a big part of our work is to get folks excited about improvements, and also be available to answer questions, and educate. I was lucky to ride next to a young man, who was riding outside his neighborhood in Kenner for the first time! He was excited to ride alongside cars, and feel safe while doing so. He told me: “When I grow up, I want to invent a car that can load all the bikes possible!” – it melted my heart when he said that. It made me think that if we continue the work we’re doing, maybe when he grows up, our connected network will be so solid that he will be able to bike anywhere he wants! That alone, makes all the work worth it!
Are you interested in leading a group ride, or would you like to share your experience leading group rides? We’re holding our first workshop about leading group rides in Greater New Orleans. More info here.